CAIRO - Egypt border guards Monday shot dead five Sudanese and wounded six others in a gunfight near the Israeli border as the African migrants tried to cross into Israel, the army said.

The firefight broke out at dawn when a group of Sudanese migrants "helped by criminals" trying to cross were stopped by border guards, the army said in a statement. "Egyptian border guards fired warning shots at the group as it tried to cross into Israel," the statement said.

"But the group opened fire at them and wounded a soldier. In an ensuing gunfight, five Sudanese were killed, six were wounded and five were arrested."

Earlier on Monday, security and health officials said the bodies of six Sudanese migrants who had been shot dead were found in the Sinai Peninsula near the Israeli border.

Eleven others were wounded by gunshots as they tried to enter Israel, they said.

The Sinai Peninsula, where Egyptian authorities are battling a militant insurgency, is a major route for African migrants trying to reach the Jewish state.

On November 15, the bodies of 15 African migrants were found near the Israeli border after they were shot dead. Between 2009 and 2011, Egypt border police often shot migrants at the border as they tried to sneak into Israel.

The northern part of the peninsula has been the stronghold of a militant insurgency since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.